one day at a time

calendar file000786402730I am scheduling my calendar from now until Christmas. Lots of routine, plus two special family get-together events, which are a big deal because we all live spread out across the country. Getting us all to the same place requires a bit of advance planning… and a more-than-a-bit of money.

I am also working on my final project to complete my MA. The last hurrah to a three-year long endeavor. There are assignment deadlines. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it is still a long tunnel.

Work is ever-present, but less settled right now. Since my team focuses on serving others around the world, it is hard to commit very far ahead, and crisis like Ebola, ISIS, and international conflicts change the best of intentions.

On top of these things, my mom has decided to end her chemo treatments and begin hospice care. She is very tired and fragile, but is still mobile and mentally sharp. No one knows how much time she will have.

I have to live one day at a time.

I am keenly aware that I have to hold all the plans I make with a loosely open hand. There is no certainty that they will occur. No guarantees. Because of my mom’s condition, at any moment this Fall could easily take on a very different personality.

The truth is every day is the same – I don’t control them and they could be very different in an instant.

Only my level of awareness has changed. And my attitude.

I am more grateful for what I do receive each day – a long phone call with one of my children, fun times with friends, a walk or bike ride with my husband, a deep conversation with my mom.

I worry less on the front end, and I am more at peace with those plans that don’t turn out. I can often reschedule, plan something else, or just enjoy some time to rest rather than keep up the pace I thought I wanted.

I actually plan better and more. Because of my recognition that each day is a gift, I want to fill them well. I crave valuable experiences, efforts, communication, and relationships.

I don’t want to waste a single moment.

I am learning to more quickly let go of the anger and forgive the offense. I am trying to take the initiative to clarify misunderstandings and express appreciation and love. I want to listen well to others and encourage and empower. I am attempting to criticize less and give more generously of myself.

Isn’t it ironic that the awareness of death gives greater meaning to life? 

How are you living each day?

process ’til the end

Last week I wrote a bit about “the process“… focusing mainly on the early years with a young family and times of growth and development. I am still in that process.

Sadly, this week I have been reminded more of the other side of the process… the years when life is coming to an end and it is time to prepare for a home-going.

Although I am not in that process personally just yet, I love very dear ones who are there. Their struggles cause me to reflect on life and challenge me to…

  • Live life to the fullest. This is not a new idea for me – I have heard it so many times.  But how very quickly I forget to really treasure the moment, the people in my life, and the blessings I have received each day. I lose focus easily and worry about the most insignificant things. I want to learn to get less frazzled about little things and take more time to give a hug and a smile… listen to the birds and the rain… smell the flowers and the freshly baked bread… see the good in people and respond to their needs… While I have energy and health, I want to work hard at the right things with great people and honor Him with each day.
  • Let go of the petty.  Recently I also read a sweet blog by a friend of mine about her interview with Corrie Ten Boom. It was such a powerful reminder of how important it is to forgive those that hurt me. I tend to take things personally and care too much about what people think about me. I get frustrated by indifference, criticism, gossip, lack of support. These are such small issues, but my bitterness can rob me of emotional energy and spiritual peace. I don’t want to lose precious time because of my stubbornness and unwillingness to forgive.
  • Train for the long haul.  Although it is true that good physical health may prove irrelevant at my eventual death, it is also true that good health will be a plus if I have to fight a disease at some time… and good health enables me to fully engaged in my life process today. If I exercise and eat well, I have more energy during the day and sleep better at night. I have better intellectual capacity, more stable emotions, and a better attitude for daily challenges. I don’t know how much time I have left in this world; I think it is a good idea to plan for a long ride.
  • Prepare the heart. I have already lived more years than a lot of people. I am grateful for the incredible, exciting adventure that I have had. I am especially thankful for the eternal security I have in my relationship with God. Coming to know Him in college has given purpose to my life and peace to my soul. I want to help others know Him.  I want to live for Him while I am on earth in such a way that I am ready to go home with Him whenever He calls.

So, until then, the process continues…

What is important in your process? Are you ready if your home-going is today?

how to transition well?

Change happens. We (my husband and I) just finalized a National Team transition. It has been a long process, and we have learned a few things along the way…

Plan the transition.  (I realize this isn’t always possible, especially if the transition is due to a crisis, but when you can…) A good transition is well thought through. We prayed and asked others to pray with us. We organized the process with an educated guess as to how long the steps would take, and stuck to the plan. We announced the coming transition with anticipation. We involved others in the process. All of this made it easier for us to move peacefully towards the future; ensured that the new leader entered his position with less stress, and helped to avoid confusion for others during the transition.

Consider the loss.  Every change – even those for the good – creates loss. Transitions shake stability, change relationships, and adjust structures and job descriptions. Others in the organization wonder how the change will affect them – and don’t like the answer. A good leader will validate this reality, take time to grieve their own losses, and coach his/her people through the process. We communicated early and regularly with everyone we thought of who could be affected by the changes. We met with mentors to process our own thoughts and emotions. We had meetings with those who work with us to ask how they were doing with the changes and what were their concerns. This personal side of the transition is often overlooked, but it is a crucial element of a successful transition.

Pass the baton.  It is important to pass information and relationships to the new leader. In the past, we have entered “blind” into new positions – no information, no alliances, and no training. We were left scrambling to understand, to “catch on”, to figure it out ourselves. We wanted something different this time, so we worked hard to be organized and invested time so that we could train well, pass files, answer questions, and connect new relationships. We clearly defined the timeline for change of authority and responsibility. We invited the new leaders to our home to process their personal concerns and questions. At the office, we talked through the general vision, the people, the finances, and the day-to-day details. We presented the new leaders to our partners. Our plan allows us to personally “coach” during the next months, but the new leaders have successfully begun to lead with clarity and confidence.

Let Go! We experienced pressure to stay longer in the position and pressure to extend our transition timeline because others hadn’t prepared well. Sometimes we were the ones “holding on” when we saw things happening that we didn’t like, and we wanted to maintain control and influence. God told me clearly… “Don’t do it!  This is not all about you.” Others will only grow and take leadership if I move out-of-the-way! We just finished our national conference, and for the first time in many years, we had no responsibilities for the event. You know what? It was a great conference! It is humbling to admit that we are not needed, but it is also an exciting indication of a hopeful future.

End well. Make sure the ending is not an escape from unresolved conflict. Say good-bye well. Express appreciation to those who partnered with you. Take time to evaluate. We worked with some wonderful people. We were part of some great accomplishments. We also experienced a lot of painful criticism and conflict, and we had to leave many of our dreams and plans unfinished. It has been good to process though all of this – forgive others and ourselves – and be able to trust God with the future!

I know I have a lot more to learn about transitions. I would love to hear from you and learn from your experiences. What do you think are the elements of a good transition?